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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Defending Closed Primaries

New York City is considering having nonpartisan elections. This would mean party primaries would be replaced with a general "first round" election followed by a runoff between the top two finishers.

This proposal threatens the people's right to association under the First Amendment. It would render largely meaningless (except for federal and state office elections) the concept of enrolling in and belonging to a political party. Parties are useful; people join parties because they identify with and feel an affinity for a party. (Whether they accurately, or should, feel that way or identify with the party are different questions.)

I sense this proposal is being floated by people who stand to gain by its enactment. There are people who cannot win in a majority-Democratic city. Changing the rules to hide their non-Democratic Party ideals is their only chance of success. The specter of most voters (including Republicans, by the way) being confused and disconnected from their traditional indication of a candidate's adherence to their core beliefs -- that is, party affiliation -- is acceptable, collateral damage.

This proposal has nothing to do with empowering the people or their constitutional right to free association, or voting rights. It is just another cynical attempt by some politicians to rejigger the system to their advantage. Once again, ambition and expediency trump democracy and transparency.

(Eric Dixon is a New York election lawyer. He has no stake in this issue. Arguably this change would increase the number of candidates. He is available for comment at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com.)



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